After our four hour bus journey we arrived at the Blue Ventures house in Sarteneja. On our way we’d come across two other volunteers on our project, Justin and Ben. A lovely woman called Jenny was waiting at the house to meet us and we all piled onto a pick up truck that would take us to our home stay families. I was the second one to be dropped off and yanked my suitcase into Rosy’s, my home stay mum’s, house. She showed me to the room that I’d be sharing with another volunteer (who was coming on the 4:15pm bus from Belize City) and I was amazed that there were two double beds and our own little bathroom.
I thanked her and waited only the time it took to find my spongebag and take off my clothes before getting into the shower. My hair was matted with dust and wind from the journey and I was already very sweaty. It felt amazing to wash the long journey off of my skin. It was impossibly humid and our little room was incredibly stuffy, but luckily there was not one, but two fans (one pointed at each bed) so that provided a lot of relief.
After I was showered and clean I went and sat outside with Rosy to chat to her. I tried out my rudimentary Spanish and she spoke excellent English so we were able to get by. She lives in her house with her husband Adrian, her son Adrian, who must only be about ten or eleven, her daughter Ineri, who must be in her twenties, and Ineri’s partner and son Ezra, who is about one and is the most preposterously adorable child. In the house is also Rosy’s father who seems to spend most of his time alternating between his hammock in the garden and his hammock in the kitchen. It’s a real family affair.
Adrian then introduced me to the other members of the family including their albino rabbit, Snowy, their three dogs and their two terrapins. The poor terrapins stared up at us from their stagnant, algal puddle at the bottom of a concrete basin. I asked in Spanish if they needed more water and he offered me a long response which, quite honestly, I understood very little of, but I smiled along and nodded anyways. He seemed to think the water was enough. This was how our conversations tended to go. I would ask a question in basic Spanish which he would reply to far faster than I could understand and so I’d nod and smile along until he ran out of things to say, occasionally offering a “Si,” if I felt audacious. I thought our relationship was going well.
I sat with Rosy, Ineri and Ezra in the garden for a while, talking about life in England and life in Sarteneja. As in all small-talk situations the weather provided quite a lot of fodder for conversation. Again I would occasionally try a couple of Spanish sentences which Rosy was very kind at replying to in slow and understandable phrases. We’re not quite at ‘conversation’ level Spanish but nearly there (…ish).
“Do you want to watch the sunset?” Rosy asked, “You can borrow the bike and go to see the sunset from the beach,”
“Yes, I’d love to,” I said and followed Ineri down to the sea on a bicycle. Hers had a little seat at the back that she could strap Ezra into. The bikes were a little bit alarming, as they didn’t have any brakes, but afterwards I found out that they were probably pedal-backwards-to-brake kind of bikes which I had never experienced before. Anyways, we cycled the two minute journey down to the sea and walked along the pier, looking into the water hoping to see fish. Ezra was very keen and kept trying to walk straight off the pier into the water, hoisted backwards each time by Ineri. He would pedal his little feet in the empty air as he hung suspended above the water and grunt in frustration that his mother was holding him back.
The water was a beautiful colour, an almost milky blue, but with terrible visibility so not great for spotting fish. I found another couple of volunteers sitting on the end of the pier so Ineri cycled back home with Ezra and I sat with them on the concrete, watching the sun go down. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with sea air. I could get used to this.